Dr RK Gupta, who had been hiding since Saturday’s operations, was arrested at a relative’s home near Bilaspur city late on Wednesday, said Dr SK Mandal, the chief medical officer of Chhattisgarh state.
Gupta denied responsibility for the deaths and blamed medication given to the women after the surgeries.
A total of 83 women had the surgeries as part of a free government-run mass sterilisation campaign and were sent home that evening. But dozens became ill and were rushed in ambulances to private hospitals in Bilaspur.
Mandal said at least 13 women died and dozens more were hospitalised, including at least 16 who are fighting for their lives.
Gupta had performed the 83 surgeries in six hours — a clear breach of government protocol, which prohibits surgeons from performing more than 30 sterilisations in a day, Mandal said. He said investigators were also trying to determine whether the women, all of them poor villagers, had been given tainted medicines.
“I am not guilty. I have been performing surgeries for a long time and there has never been any problem,” Gupta told reporters in Bilaspur around the time of his arrest.
“I have a history of completing up to 200-300 surgeries in one day,” he said. “There are no written guidelines, but what we have been told verbally is that we shouldn’t perform more than 30 operations in a day.”
He said the patients began throwing up and complaining of dizziness and weakness after they were given medication following the operations.
Gupta has been charged with culpable homicide not amounting to murder, local Inspector General of Police Pawan Dev told the Press Trust of India news agency. If found guilty he would face a maximum punishment of life in prison.
Experts say the deaths are the result of a lack of medical oversight and because of sterilisation targets set by the Indian government as part of its efforts to stabilise the country’s booming population.
In the 1970s, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi imposed a policy of forcibly sterilising men who had already fathered two children. Opponents said it targetted unmarried and poor men, with doctors given bonuses for operating on low-income patients.